Saturday, March 31, 2007

Are Measles a Menace to Cancer?

news you may not know

You Can't

Have Them...

She's really the sweetest little girl. Bright, fun and full of the wonder that most 7-year-olds possess. She's more likely to jump smack dab in the middle of a big rain puddle than she is to give a second thought to her new sneakers. Saturdays? Wow - you'd better bring your "A-Game," because she hits the floor running at the crack of way-too-early and doesn't stop until the sun drops below the far edge of the world.

So, why is she being so dang responsible about this measles thing? Sure, they had that section in school where they said you should be careful, respect others and not spread your illness around, but... You're her mother, for heaven's sake! You'd think she'd show a little empathy, snuggle up close, breath in your face or maybe, if you're lucky, give you a big smack right on the lips. But, no - she has to be Miss Responsibility.

At this rate, you'll never catch the measles...

Researchers at Mayo clinic are studying the use of the measles virus to combat three types of cancer: multiple myeloma, recurrent ovarian cancer and glioblastoma multiforme. The most recent study targeting multiple myeloma is unique in that it administers the measles virus intravenously. The other clinical trials deliver the measles virus directly to the tumor site. The underlying theory is that use of the gene-modified virus will allow the body to produce an immune response to the cancer.

Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the plasma cells within the bone marrow. These cells play a vital role in the immune system and, once compromised, patients are susceptible to recurrent infections. It's estimated that over 50,000 people in the United States currently have multiple myeloma.

OK - you've had it. You tiptoe into her room at 2am, sneak up to her bed and - pounce! You clamp her in a bear hug a grizzly would admire and, when she startles awake, you lay down the law: "OK, Missy - Measle me!"

To read more about multiple myeloma, see this from the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation. To read about Mayo's clinical trials see: Multiple Myeloma - Recurrent Ovarian Cancer - Glioblastoma Multiforme.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Challenges of Chinese Cuisine

tidbits that tantalize


Is Chinese??

It hardly seems fair - here it is, "Chinese Chow Down" Thursday, and your wife and kids are all nagging you to "behave." What does that dang doctor know anyway? He didn't look like the healthiest guy himself and, really - you've got several friends with cholesterol levels way higher than 288. But, a promise is a promise. Just like the kids keep reminding you.

You grab a table at Chen's Super Dynasty and, with gleeful shouts of "Buffet!" ringing in your ears, you watch as your family makes a beeline for the food line without so much as a backward glance. You give a meager grin to the waitress, remove the dietary cheat-sheet from your pocket and consider your options. Just as you thought. In a barely audible voice, you tell the waitress, "I'll have an order of steamed broccoli and a side of stir-fried snow peas - no sauce."

The waitress nods politely, says, "Ah, so sorry," and scoots off to the kitchen to place your "special" order.

Is this the only way to eat healthily at a Chinese restaurant? Well...

Findings released by the Center for Science in the Public Interest paint a fairly dim picture of Chinese cuisine - and Italian, Mexican and the vast majority of American restaurants. But, not to become distracted, the main emphasis of the study deals with Chinese food.

Warning - if you love Chinese food you must STOP NOW - reading beyond this point may permanently alter your relationship with fried wantons, egg rolls and all fried foods soaked in soy sauce.

The study tells a chilling tale of exorbitant calories and excesses of salt. For example, a serving of General Tso's chicken contains about one-half the total calories required for an entire day and 1.4 times the sodium. The veggie dishes fair no better. A plate of stir-fried greens has about 900 calories and just shy of the daily sodium requirement of 2,300 milligrams.

It's a tough buffet to navigate, but the Center offers several healthy guidelines, including choosing vegetable dishes instead of meat or noodle dishes, avoiding deep-fried foods, leaving off the sauce, limiting salt and... Well, you get the idea - order the steamed broccoli...

You do your best to concentrate amidst the tempting, wafting, steaming fat-laden plates assembled by your family. Then, in a careless serendipity, your youngest accidentally splashes a few drops of soy sauce onto your steamed broccoli. "Woohoo!" You spear the broccoli before your wife has a chance to hit it with her napkin, sit back and savor each luscious bite.

Ah - Now, that's Chinese...

To read more about the study results, see this from the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Managing the Maze of Multiple Medications

news you may not know


Daily Dose??

Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Those are "your days." Your sister also covers three days and your brother, sometimes, picks up the seventh - or not, which means you're usually there on Sundays as well. But, you all talked about it and decided it's the only way to keep mom at home. Oh, she does fine with meals and getting around - it's just the pills.

You've never seen so many medications. Blood pressure, heart, cholesterol, some little green pills, a big orangey looking one... Some with meals, some after - twice a day, or three times - one just at bedtime... The spreadsheet you and your sister created has been a godsend, even though the changes over the past few months have made it all but unreadable.

And, in your own defense, the mistake you made last week was really no big deal. After all, your mom hadn't been to the doctor in a couple months, so the trip to the ER could be viewed as a somewhat hurried up routine visit. Even the ER doctor said, "We're glad you brought her in."

...Could there be a better way to handle the treacherous maze of multiple medications?

Dr. Larry Shusterman, a geriatrician and former pharmacist, believes there is a much better way to deal with this complicated issue. He has developed an automated medication dispensing system for home use. The system, known as the Medi-Sure Medication Dispensing System, is currently being tested in several settings in New Jersey.

The Medi-Sure system is a compact unit, about the size of a DVD player, that is filled with medications and programmed by a pharmacist. Once in the patient's home, the device alerts the patient with a verbal cue when it's time to take a dose of medication. The patient then pushes a "Get Dose" button on the device and the medications are dropped into a drawer - specific directions about how to take the medication are also dropped into the drawer.

The device creates an electronic log each time it dispenses medications that can be reviewed either remotely, by health care providers, or locally by family members. Using the Medi-Sure system reduces medication errors, with close to 95% of patients taking their medications correctly. The cost of the system, including the pharmacy dispensing fees, is about $4 per day.

...OK - mom's all squared away. It went pretty well. No trip to the ER, no hysterics - at least, not on your mother's part. You jump in the car, grab your keys from your purse and, "What?" "Where'd that big orangey pill come from?" Hmm...

To read more about the Medi-Sure system, see this from ScienceDaily.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Surprise! Men Eat Fewest Veggies

news you may not know

Careful -

It's A Trick Question...

You know it's important, but six in the morning?! Who made that decision? It's got to be a conspiratorial master plan that runs straight to the top. You've had your suspicions since you heard your wife on the phone with Oscar's wife - whispering, laughing, talking in hushed tones and using code words like "greens" and "root." You just didn't - oops, there's the bell.

You sidle into the classroom and take your seat alongside the 27 other court ordered "offenders." The teacher, an over exuberant morning person, greets you loudly and dives rights in. He holds up an oddly shaped, yellow object and asks if anyone can tell him what it is. And, lo and behold, some smart aleck at the front of the class shouts out, "It's a pepper!"

...Sometimes, life really sucks...

Is this the future for veggie-phobic men? Well, it depends - if they can find a way to distract their wives, they may stand a fighting chance of avoiding court ordered vegetable training. If not, the future looks pretty bleak - and green.

The CDC reports that Americans continue to disdain food that comes from the ground, opting instead for food that comes from large coin-operated metal machines. Less than one-third of Americans eat the recommended servings - or portions or cups or helpings or pieces - of vegetables each day. (Confused? See the links at the bottom for clarification of servings and portions and pieces...)


Men are, once again, the worst offenders. Just over 1 in 5 men - 22% - eat the recommended, uhm... Well, eat enough vegetables each and every day. Many, of course, claim they are boycotting the entire vegetable process until the guidelines are stated in terms they can more readily understand - "A six pack of celery," or a "A big hunk of broccoli."

...The teacher seems relatively pleased with the level of knowledge exhibited and decides to step it up a level. He offers up a bonus question, for extra credit. Holding up a large, red tomato, he asks the most treacherous of all food-from-the-ground questions, "Is it a fruit - or, is it a vegetable?"

The smart-alecky guy at the front of the class leaps to his feet and shouts, "Ooh, ooh - I know! Ask me - ask me!"

To read more about the report, see this synopsis from MedPage Today. To read more about the health benefits of eating fruits and vegetables, see this from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Is March Madness a Health Hazard?

tidbits that tantalize

Let The

Madness Begin...

Wow, it just doesn't get any better. 65 college basketball teams scrambling for a single spot at the top, wall to wall, floor to ceiling, rafter to rafter - ahem, sorry - anyway, lots and lots of television coverage. But, before you settle in for the long haul, you take inventory...

Hmm... Beer, pretzels, chips - check. Backup supply of beer, pretzels, chips - check.

With inventory complete, you hunker down in your leather recliner with optional handle-free operation, pop open a cold one and grab the first of a never-ending supply of deep fried snacks. You tilt yourself back, click the remote and there it is - the Miracle of March Madness on a 103-inch flat panel plasma screen. It's enough to make a grown man cry...

Unfortunately, shedding the bitter tears of defeat may be the most exercise many men get during March Madness. For those with weak wills March Madness presents an overpowering temptation to abandon ones sanity, family and all non-fried foods.

The art of the couch potato, however, is not limited to March. The Sourcebook for Teaching Science provides these compelling statistics about American's television watching habits:

-99% of U.S. households own televisions

-TV sets are on an average of 6 hours and 47 minutes per day

-66% of Americans eat their dinners in front of the television

-Americans spend a combined 250 billion hours watching TV annually

-Children spend 3.5 minutes in meaningful conversation with their parents each week

-Children spend 1,680 minutes watching television each week


...Ah. What a month - your team got blown out in the first round, but it was still a great tournament. And, really, for just the second day since the championship, you're feeling pretty good. The blinding pain behind your eyes is starting to respond to the morphine drip, you made it to the kitchen without assistance last night and, best of all, you were able to recognize two of your three - or is it four? - children this morning. Yes, indeed - what a great month...

To read more about the television watching habits of Americans, see this from the Sourcebook for Teaching Science. To read recommendations on healthy physical activities and diet, see this from the CDC's Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

12 Steps to Reducing Sudden Death in Young Athletes

news you may not know

Competitive Fish


Seem Safe...

It's confusing, really. Just last week your son was trying out for the high school basketball team and now... He's enrolled in a 12-step program. How did this happen? Maybe you were too busy bragging about him making the team, or making plans to attend the games with your sister. Life seemed so good.

Then, seeming as if it was the most natural thing in the world, your son waltzed in and asked you to sign the 12-step participation permission slip. Well, you really had no choice. So, here you are, waiting for your son's first session to end. Let's see - that would be the questions about his personal history. Chest pain, unexplained fainting - that type thing. Then, they'll move on to any family history relevant to heart disease and...

Hmm... Seems like a rather odd 12-step program.

That's because this particular 12-step program is a screening tool designed to reduce the incidence of sudden death in young athletes. Each of the "12 steps" is in actuality a question or a physical assessment dealing with heart related health issues. The first 5 questions probe potential problems with the athlete - issues dealing with chest pain, heart murmur and high blood pressure. The next 3 questions probe issues relating to the athlete's family and their health - incidences of heart disease, arrhythmias or long QT syndrome. The final 4 steps are components of a physical examination assessing heart and arterial fitness.

The 12 steps are contained within the Recommendations for Preparticipation Cardiovascular Screening of Competitive Athletes. This 1996 statement of the Sudden Death Committee of the American Heart Association was recently updated without major revisions.

According to the panel, sudden death among young athletes is both relatively rare and more common than previously estimated. An assessment of high school athletes in Minnesota places the incidence of sudden death at 1 in 200,000 annually. Schools do appear to be making improvement in screening for potential problems. The panel reports that 81% of schools provided adequate screening in 2005, up from just 55% in 1997.

The panel recommends the development of a national standard to assess the cardiovascular fitness of all high school and college athletes.

Your cellphone rings - it's your mother-in-law. You switch off the power and drop the phone in your pocket. You barely survived the holidays - how will you ever explain Josh's new little "program?"

To read more about the recent review, see this from ScienceDaily. To read the complete 1996 Recommendations for Preparticipation Cardiovascular Screening of Competitive Athletes see this from the American Heart Association.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Can Electric Current Cure Headaches?

news you may not know

Would Someone

Please Zap Me?!

Sure, working on the taxes is no fun, but this is excruciating - the throbbing and pulsating and pounding... And, the lights. Can't someone please turn off the lights - and the noise and... the pain!

How many more hours do you have to wait for the pain meds to kick in and give you some relief from this migraine? Your doctor said the new meds are much stronger and should work much more quickly. Possibly she simply has a different definition of the passage of time.

...That settles it. You're not waiting any longer. You struggle to your feet, stumble to the desk and fumble about in the top drawer. There it is - your Zapper 2000 XT Series Remote Therapy Delivery Device! You set the charge to maximum, aim the device at the control module implanted beneath your skin and press the button. The electrical impulses race through tiny wires across your back and up your spine until they reach the back of your skull. Then, with a vengeance befitting a medical mercenary, they blast the occipital nerve with electrical impulses and...

In a flash the pain is gone and life is, well - life is livable once again.

Researchers are studying the use of neurostimulation to relieve both migraine and cluster headaches. More than 28 million people in the United States suffer from migraine headaches and up to 10% of sufferers find no relief through medications.

Boston Scientific is the manufacturer of the device being tested. The Precision device is a small Spinal Cord Stimulation system that is currently used to treat chronic spinal cord pain. The Precision system consists of both internal and external components. The internal component is implanted below the skin, typically in the hip area, and is connected to small wires that deliver electrical impulses. For treatment of headaches, the wires wind beneath the skin to an area at the base of the skull, where they are able to stimulate the occipital nerves, the area showing the most promise for relief of headache pain.

An external component - ala the "Zapper 2000 XT Series Remote Therapy Delivery Device" - allows the patient to adjust the levels of stimulation and turn the device on and off.

...Ah, back to normal. Now, if only the Zapper 2000 had a remote setting that would help finish your taxes...

To read more about the Precision system, see this from Boston Scientific. To read about the clinical trial utilizing the device, see this from

Saturday, March 17, 2007

To Lose Weight Choose Skinny Friends

tidbits that tantalize

Step To The

Left, Please...

"Thank You - step to the left, please. Next. Thank you - step to the left."

The auditions have been brutal. Though not exactly in American Idol's league, the lines have been steady, the competition fierce and disappointments severe. But, there really doesn't appear to be much choice. The doctor made it quite clear. Lose some weight "or else." Not being the confrontational type, you opted not to ask exactly what the "or else" option entailed and settled on a new diet strategy.

You read that hanging around with overweight folks tends to add pounds, so you figured a new set of appropriately skinny friends was in order. A pithy classified ad, the promise of free doughnuts (a simple first cut) and an industrial scale rental and you were well on your way. So far, so good. The heavyweights to the left, the possibles to the right.

Now, after a grueling twelve hours, you're ready for the final selections. Weights are recorded, body mass indexes (BMI) tabulated, food preferences analyzed and... Ah - the final list. You have eight brand new, weight and BMI optimized friends - and two alternates in case of unforeseen complications.

Is this really how we will choose our friends in the future? If the goal is weight loss it's possible.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School studied data from the Framingham Heart Study. The study began in 1948 and has followed multiple generations of participants. The goal of the current analysis was to assess the impact of obesity within social networks.

The results indicate having obese friends greatly increases the likelihood of becoming overweight. The most significant influence comes from same sex friends - men being influenced more by male friends and women by female friends. This same sex association is even stronger than the impact spouses have on one another. The study refers to these social groups as "obesity clusters" and, apparently, their impact on ones weight is much the same as peanut clusters.

Well - it's been a successful day. You pack up your charts and graphs, gather your eight newfound friends and start to make plans for the night. Then it happens. One of your new buddies steps forward and says, "We've been talking and - we're going to have to ask you to take a turn on the scale."

Hmm... where are those alternates?

To read more about the study, see this from the Harvard University Gazette. To read more about obesity and to find weight loss resources, see this from the Centers for Disease Control.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Does Chocolate Add Sweet Years to Men's Lives?

tidbits that tantalize


OK, OK. Careful here. You've studied too long to let it all slip away over a rash decision. Just because it seems obvious doesn't mean it's true. After all, that's the whole idea of "You're Right, I'm Wrong - I Should Have Seen it Coming From a Mile Away!" Despite its unwieldy title, the game show has been a huge hit and has a fanatic following.

Affectionately known as the "Dang!" show by fans, it's a quiz show anomaly: It has no studio, but films its segments in a variety of locations about the city. Today's show is taking place in a health food supermarket and today's theme is "Longevity."

You should know this. It's a simple question - which of the three 60-year-old men standing in front of you is most likely to live the longest? Hmm... You check their shopping carts. Guy 1 has a decent selection, lots of fruits and veggies, some cheese, a loaf of spelt bread, low fat milk, a bag of walnuts and some orange juice. Not bad. Guy 2, well - this simplifies things. His cart is stocked with nothing but potato chips, cakes, pies, candy bars and beer. It's all organic, but still... OK - Guy 3. Interesting - very interesting. His cart is filled, to the top mind you, with a single food selection: chocolate. Dark chocolate - in many varieties, styles and textures, but only chocolate, nothing else.

Well, this seems simple enough. Feeling quite confident, you step to Guy 1, the fruit and veggies guy, and make your selection. Nano-seconds later your dreams of game show dominance crash about your feet as the host sadly shakes his head and the audience loudly cheers: "Dang!"

Really? According to scientists in Finland, men who eat chocolate appear to live healthier lives than men who abstain. The study found that men who routinely eat chocolate have slimmer waists and are less likely to have diabetes. Those who eat chocolate also tend to be somewhat better educated than those who eat other types of sweets - fortunately, the study did not find incidences of chocolate snobbery to be statistically significant.

The study followed a group of men, now in their 70s and 80s, for over forty years. The chocolate eaters not only reported feeling healthier, but also reported being less depressed, experiencing less loneliness and were more likely to be making plans for the future. Wow - where's the chocolate?

You wander the streets in a fog, your game show prowess crushed. Then it strikes you. You rush into a corner market, make a beeline to the candy section and reach for the dark chocolate. Coming up empty-handed, you read the sign: "No dark chocolate till Thursday." You hang your head in despair and whisper, "Dang!"

To read more about the health benefits of chocolate, see this from About:Longevity. To read more about the history of chocolate, see this from The Field Museum.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Health Advice Better With a Happy Face

tidbits that tantalize

"Doctor Maude"

Elkhorn, Nebraska...

Omaha, Nebraska

It makes no sense. You've been meticulous in all aspects of the project. You started with a dedicated team of highly skilled physicians and educators. You hired the top-notch Web design outfit available, brought in seasoned writers and field-tested your site to fine-tune both the content and presentation. It all went off without a hitch - rave reviews heralded the site as one of the "Top 5 Health Information Portals" of the year. Yet...

Every time you check your site's traffic statistics you find you're still stuck in second place. In your own market! Geez! You designed this site to match wits with the big boys. But, there it is. Week after week. Some outfit called Maude's Medical Miscellany - from somewhere out by Elkhorn - outpaces you by a 2-to-1 margin. How can it be? What does she have on her site, other than a bunch of patients yakking about trying this, that and the other? Hmm...

...A bunch of patients?

Researchers at Northumbria University in England report that patients may be the key to online dissemination of health related information. A recent study found the most important aspect of health related Websites is not their accuracy, nor their level of expertise - it's a "familiar face." People are most interested in reading personal accounts of what others have experienced in dealing with the difficulties they themselves now face.

The scientists were surprised to find how quickly consumers rejected high quality, reputable sites due to the sterile nature of the presentation. Advertising was also viewed as a negative, thus eliminating most drug company sites and other commercially oriented endeavors. Government Websites fared no better. These sites were often viewed as being too cumbersome and, unwilling to waste precious nano-seconds, the users quickly moved on.

The "friendly-face" search methodology does not appear to be particularly damaging. The researchers report that even though reliable resources are often quickly rejected, most consumers find information that is of reasonable quality.

...The stress is taking its toll - the pain running up the back of your neck is unbearable. You've tried everything to get some relief. Sure, you found some great ideas using your "Advanced Power Search" function. But, nothing's helped. Then, a brainstorm hits. Ah... there's a guy named Joey with your exact symptoms. You give his picture a click and - you're feeling better already. Thanks, Maude...

To read more about the study, see this from ScienceDaily.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Blood Test Diagnoses Panic Disorder - Yikes!

tidbits that tantalize

It's Been

23 Minutes!!

Come on, come on! It's been at least 23 minutes now and they said the blood work would be back in about 20 minutes. Well, you don't know where they grew up, but where you come from you passed the "about" stage the minute after the clock rang in minute 23. No ifs ands or buts about it. And...

The walls are starting to feel awfully close in here. It wouldn't hurt to turn down the thermostat a touch either - I mean really! Is a comfortable 62 degrees too much to ask for? Of course not. And, what's with that guy over there anyway? Does he have to stare? If he's so dang interested in your life why doesn't he just stand up, mosey on over and let you tell him to mind his own business face to face?

Gee whiz - this waiting on blood work to find out if you have a panic disorder is way more stressful than you expected. Maybe you should just cancel the whole idea - it's obvious there's really nothing to be concerned with in the first place...

Will blood tests soon be able to diagnose panic disorders? Well, the "soon" may be pushing it, but the diagnostic capability seems to be coming into focus.

Researchers at the University of Iowa in Iowa City recently reported a genetic distinction in those with panic disorders. They studied 33 individuals to determine if a definitive test could be devised to diagnose panic disorders. The results revealed a difference in genetic activity between those individuals with panic disorders and those without.

The scientists are developing a blood test for commercial use that will help diagnose panic disorders.

...Ah. The results are back. It's just as you thought - no panic disorder was detected. You crumple the paper and toss it toward the guy who's been staring at you, let out a loud scream and sprint toward the door. Apparently the blood test is not yet 100% accurate...

To read more about panic disorders, see this from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Friday, March 09, 2007

To Care for the Whole Self, Eat the Whole Grain

news you may not know

I Need Some

Good Stuff...

Seattle, Washington - In the not-so-distant future...

Bleary-eyed and soggy, you step into the small diner and take a look about. This can't be right - it's nothing more than a mom-and-pop joint with a dozen or so stools at the counter and 3 or 4 booths along the wall. You check your notes. Hmm... Yeah, Paul's Pantry.

You sidle on up to the counter, order a cup of coffee and ask, as casually as you can with your heart banging around your chest, if Paul is around. The waitress gives you the once over and, before she can ask, you volunteer, "Artie sent me." She leans in close, gives a nod of her head and you follow her into the back where Paul, a spry 64-year-old, greets you with a handshake that makes you wince in pain.

When you tell him you've heard he has the "good stuff" he asks to see the cash. You pull back the flap of your knapsack and give him a peak. Satisfied, he leads you through a dark labyrinth, throws open a door and you step into nirvana. You've never seen so much "good stuff" in all your life.

Mounds of rolled oats - hundreds, maybe thousands of pounds. Piles and piles of bran, bulgur, couscous and quinoa. It's absolutely mind blowing. Since the GMO cross contamination disaster of 2017 whole grains have been about impossible to come by. Governments and big business joined forces to insist that virtually all foods be ground to a pulp, flushed through a high heat purification process and sterilized with antimicrobial solutions. If it weren't for the organic underground the bowl of oatmeal would be history...

Is this the future? Not if we know what's good for us.

Recent research reports that consumption of whole grain cereal has an amazing impact on heart health. The study followed a group of physicians over a 24 year period and revealed that those who consumed whole grain cereal multiple times each week had a much lower risk of heart failure.

The differences are quite impressive. Those consuming whole grain cereals 7 or more times per week - yes, this is certainly the dedicated group - were 28% less likely to develop heart failure. Those consuming whole grains 2-6 times each week still had a 22% lower risk. Even the slackers - those who ate whole grain cereals only ONE time per week - enjoyed a 14% reduction in risk. Wow...

So, be careful with your future. It begins today when you reach into your pantry for breakfast. And, if you're smart, you'll reach for the "good stuff.'

To read more about the study, see this from To read more about whole grains, see this from the Mayo Clinic.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Is Common Cold the Cure to Cancer?

news you may not know

Step Away

From The Phil...

Dang that vitamin C! You've been hanging around the water cooler all day long, shaking hands like a politician on auto-pilot and, yet - nothing. Not so much as a sniffle. Oh, sure - last fall everybody and their brother had a cold. You couldn't turn around without being exposed to multiple variants of wheezes and sneezes and snot. But, now when you really need it...

OK - you had hoped it wouldn't come to this, but you're getting desperate. You head to accounting. Rumor has it Phil has a nasty cold and has closeted himself away in his cubicle. As you wait for the elevator door to open you ponder your predicament. Have you lost your mind? Or, is it the breast cancer that's pushed you over the edge? Have you... Ding-Ding!

The elevator doors open and you sprint down the hallway, round the corner to Phil's cubicle and drag him to his feet. As he shrieks in surprise, you pull him nose-to-nose and, a crazed look in your eyes, you lay down the law.

"Come on, Phil - sneeze on me!"

Is this the future of breast cancer treatment? Hopefully, at least for Phil, it will be somewhat more clinical in nature. But, the common cold virus may play a significant role nonetheless.

Kathryn Skelding, a University of Newcastle researcher, is studying a new treatment based upon the common cold. In an application known as virotherapy, scientists hope to develop a breast cancer treatment that leaves healthy tissue undamaged and has few side effects. Virotherapy first came to light over 100 years ago when doctors observed that some women with breast cancer went into remission after acquiring a viral infection.

Current research focuses on engineering viruses, such as the common cold, to specifically target cancer cells. If successful, the new treatment will allow women to fight their breast cancers without the nausea, hair loss and other side effects that occur with existing treatments. In fact, the side effects may be no more serious than those typically experienced with a common cold.

Though still in Phase I Clinical Trials, this is all extremely good news. Particularly for Phil - with the constant line of women at his cubicle, he's about all sneezed out.

To read more about the study, see this from ScienceDaily. To read more about the biotechnology company sponsoring the clinical trial, see this from Viralytics.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Fresh Air Fights Infection and - it's Free

news you may not know

This Should Do

The Trick...

Lima, Peru - 2007 Conference on Airborne Disease

The stage is set - literally. Graphs, charts, posters - and, of course, the 24-foot-tall, ambient light reducing, image enhancing SX-1750 projection system. It's the perfect environment to discuss the, uhm, environment most suitable for restricting the spread of tuberculosis and other airborne illnesses.

The results of your study will impact medical systems worldwide. As nations struggle to prepare for potential pandemics, ready to pour hundreds of millions into the latest technologies, they eagerly await word of the latest developments.

You step to the microphone, give the customary introductions and dive in. The SX-1750 whirs madly as you quickly display images detailing the methods and findings of your research:

-Ventilation measurements via carbon dioxide tracer gas technique.

-368 combined experiments.

-Infection risk estimates per Wells-Riley model of airborne infection.

The crowd listens intently as you outline the study. Then, with a final click of the remote, you display the study's startling conclusion:

-Open the Windows...

It is, in fact, quite startling. It seems the modern, high-tech solutions to combating airborne disease are no match for the simple architectural designs of the 1950s.

Current solutions embrace an ideology of containment. Isolation rooms are engineered to provide "negative pressure," whereby mechanical ventilation systems ensure that air flows into the room when the door is opened. This ensures that contaminated air does not escape. But...

Researchers found the natural ventilation of 1940s and 1950s hospitals is superior. Those facilities, with the old style high ceilings and large windows typical of the era, provide greater airflow than the mechanically ventilated rooms.

The result is a lower rate of transmission of infectious disease.

Researchers estimate 39% of susceptible people would become infected with TB after exposure in the mechanically ventilated isolation rooms. But, in the fresh-air-is-fabulous rooms, the infection rate following exposure is estimated at 11% - for the non-math inclined, that is a, uhm - well, it's really a lot better.

The crowd erupts in shouts and applause at the conclusion. Outside a passerby, annoyed by the commotion, shouts, "Hey - close the dang windows!" Ah - if he only knew...

To read more about the study, see this from Reuters. To read the entire report, see this from the Public Library of Science.

Photo courtesy of : Novapages

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Fighting Disease With Itsy-Bitsy Traps

tidbits that tantalize

Careful -

It May Be A Trap...

Anytown, USA - 2am

OK - you can do this. Just like you practiced Saturday morning when she was at the grocery. Remember, it's "Slide, Roll and Tumble." Nothing fancy - just stick to the basics and you'll be out of here in a flash.

You breath deeply, steady yourself and set the routine in motion. A gentle lift of the covers, and you slide to the edge of the bed - so far so good. Step two, you roll to the ground and tumble across the carpet to deaden both noise and vibrations. Excellent! The sound of faint snoring continues to reverberate.

On your knees in a flash, surprisingly agile considering your massive midriff, you crab your way to the doorway. Once in the hallway, you lean against the wall, gasping for air as the sweat courses across your face. Only now do the dangers you face come fully into focus.

Tip-toeing through the kitchen, you catch a glimpse of the prize and your heart races. A side-by-side Behemoth 2000 X-Series with optional soft-serve capabilities. It's a wonder of modern refrigerator technology and your target for a late night raid and refuel. You stand triumphantly at the door, a sinister look of power in your eyes, and pull open the door to the kingdom.

Argh! It can't be - it's...


The shock is simply too much to bear. You crumble to the floor and burst into a fit of hysteria. Undone and outwitted, you simply shrivel away and die at the feet of the Behemoth 2000 X-Series.

Well... Perhaps the "shrivel away and die" is a tad dramatic, but the strategy may nonetheless be quite viable. Researchers have developed a plan to lure previously untouchable viruses to their deaths. Yes, they intend to employ the "Empty Refrigerator" (EF) strategy.

Scientists have long known that certain habitats naturally occur that prohibit the reproduction of specific viruses. By engineering these cells, known as "traps," they theorize they may be able to lure viruses to a cellular structure that functions in a similar manner. Thus, once the virus has attached itself to the trap cell, its future is settled - it has no way to reproduce and, ultimately, the virus dies out.

HIV, for example, attaches itself to the body's T-cells. To spread, however, the virus relies upon components within the T-cell's nucleus. Ah... Now we see where a tiny Empty Refrigerator strategy may be exceedingly useful. What better way to eliminate a greedy HIV virus than to lure it in for a late night snack?

As to the ever-present problem of the late night snack attack? In light of recent publicity surrounding the EF strategy, men's support groups recommend maintaining a stash of suitable snacks in a plastic bag hidden in the toilet tank - and, the toolbox, behind the dresser, atop the file cabinet, in Grandma Ethel's vase, in Petey's toy box, in the vacuum cleaner...

To read more about this research, see this from ScienceDaily.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Does Caffeine at 65 Keep You Alive?

tidbits that tantalize

Ah - What A

Great Morning...

Man, you can't wait. Tuesday's the big day and it can't come fast enough. Martha will just have to grin and bear it too which, of course, makes it all the more sweet. After all, though you love her with all your heart, it was Martha that tore your life apart a dozen years ago. It was a wintry Saturday afternoon and she'd been to the A&P. You helped her carry in the bags and started to unpack the groceries when something odd caught your eye. Unbelieving, you asked Martha what "it" was and, with a single word, she changed your life forever...


It's been a brutal twelve years, but Tuesday you turn 65 - and, you plan on being the first in line at the Division of Caffeine Consumption (DCC). Yes, sir. With your DCC license in hand you plan on spending the entire day drinking lattes, cappuccinos and espresso. Of course, it's not that you even like all those fancy-schmancy bistro buys - you're strictly in it for the caffeine.

Hmm... Might we expect the issuance of DCC licenses in the future? And, if so, is 65 really the most appropriate age to issue a license allowing additional caffeine consumption? Well, recent research seems to indicate it may be true - not the license part, but the caffeine part.

Investigators at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York report a surprising health benefit related to caffeine consumption. If, that is, you are 65 years of age or older. They report a direct correlation between caffeine consumption and a decreased risk of death due to heart disease.

People tend to experience a drop in blood pressure following meals, a phenomenon that becomes more pronounced with age. Caffeine, apparently, takes this as a personal insult. When those over the age of 65 drink caffeinated coffee following meals it counteracts the typical drop in blood pressure. Quite the perk.

The researchers found the effect to be dose-specific, with a higher caffeine intake resulting in a lower heart disease risk and visa versa. Study participants who drank four or more servings each day had a 53% lower risk of dying from heart disease - those drinking between two and four servings each day had a 32% lower risk.

The bad news? The beneficial effect was not seen in those younger than 65.

But, if you're still just a kid, take heart. Mark your calendar and set your alarms. The Division of Caffeine Consumption knows how critical the DCC license is - doors open each weekday at 6 a.m.

To read more about the study and the beneficial effects of caffeine, see this from Reuter's Health.